Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy for Stroke Patients: How Does It Work?

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy for Stroke Patients: How Does It Work?

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy for stroke patients may help improve movement after stroke, as well as other stroke side effects.

Let’s look into this low-risk, cutting-edge stroke treatment.

What Is Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy?

Oxygen therapy, formally known as hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT), exposes you to pure oxygen, which increases the amount of oxygen in the brain.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is administered in a clear chamber where patients lie for about 60-90 minutes breathing 100% oxygen.

How Does Oxygen Therapy Help Stroke Recovery?

To understand how oxygen therapy works, you need to understand how neuroplasticity works too.

During neuroplasticity after stroke, the surrounding parts of the brain take over the responsibility of the damaged part of the brain by building new connections between brain cells.

In order to trigger this rewiring process, you need to stimulate the brain through massed practice.

For example, if you need to regain leg movement, then you can only trigger neuroplasticity by practicing leg movements over and over.

Repetitive practice is the essential ingredient for recovery after stroke.

Now, how does oxygen therapy fit into that process?

Can You Heal Your Brain with Oxygen Therapy?

According to Science Daily, the brain consumes 20% of the body’s oxygen – but that’s only enough to operate a small percentage of brain cells at any given point in time.

When the brain is busy rebuilding connections through the process of neuroplasticity, it takes up even more oxygen.

Oxygen therapy provides extra oxygen to the brain, essentially working as ‘brain food,’ which speeds up the process of neuroplasticity.

While repetitive practice is the primary driver of neuroplasticity, HBOT can play a secondary role by speeding up the process.

So, there’s no escaping the hard work of rehab – but HBOT can provide a potentially powerful boost.

What Stroke Deficits Does It Treat?

Oxygen therapy is currently being used to improve movement after stroke – even for survivors suffering from post-stroke paralysis.

(Read: Stroke Paralysis Treatments You Probably Didn’t Know About)

Some studies report that patients experience benefits like reversal of paralysis, increased sensation, and renewed use of language.

As you can see, oxygen therapy can help treat a wide variety of post-stroke side effects.

Who Can Try Oxygen Therapy?

Stroke survivors can try HBOT at any stage in their stroke recovery timeline.

It doesn’t matter if your stroke was a few months or many years ago; although most studies were conducted in the early stages.

However, Dr. Efrati has seen improvement in patients up to 20 years post stroke!

Efrati is the director of the largest, most-occupied hyperbaric center in the world!

So, take it from a doctor who spends his entire work-life with HBOT. Oxygen therapy has the potential to help stroke survivors at any stage post-stroke.

What Do the Studies Say?

Because hyperbaric oxygen therapy is new, the studies have been mixed.

Studies Against HBOT:

“Although our HBO protocol appears feasible and safe, it does not appear to be beneficial and may be harmful in patients with acute ischemic stroke.” – Daniel E. Rusyniak, MD, et al.

“The overall evidence is insufficient to determine the effectiveness of hyperbaric oxygen therapy in any subgroup of stroke patients… good quality studies are needed.” –Susan Carson, et al.

Studies Supporting HBOT:

benefits of hyperbaric oxygen therapy for stroke recovery

“The results of HBO therapy in the treatment of patients with stroke… are promising and warrant further investigation.” –Noori S. AL-Waili, et al.

“The results indicate that HBOT can lead to significant neurological improvements in post stroke patients even at chronic late stages.” –Shai Efrati, et al.

What all this means:

Currently, oxygen therapy is hit-or-miss. Consult with your doctors if you’re interested.

If they give you the green light, try searching for clinical trials in your area.

We hope this article gave you hope in the emerging high-tech treatments for stroke recovery.